Fact: Alabama’s prisons have grown 840% since 1977. The state population has grown 23%.
Fact: In 1995, Alabama briefly re-introduced the chain gang for the first time in America in 30 years, before dropping the practice amid criticism and court challenges.
Fact: In 2002, the U.S. Justice Department ordered Alabama to stop chaining inmates to hitching posts, a widespread practice.
Fact: Alabama spends 1 of every 4 dollars in the state’s General Fund on prisons.
Source: Alabama’s Prison Problems, Al.com
Fact: In 2008, the school district of Philadelphia employed 450 full-time law enforcement personnel.
Fact: Several other U.S. public school systems employed over one hundred full-time law enforcement personnel, including Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Palm Beach, Las Vegas, and Baltimore school districts.
Source: “Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, 2008,” Bureau of Justice Statistics
Fact: The municipal court of the city of Ferguson, MO disposed 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases in 2013.
Fact: This amounts to roughly 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.
Fact: The city raised $2.6 million in revenue from these cases, or about $321 in fines and fees per household.
Source: ArchCity Defenders: Municipal Courts White Paper
Fact: Many services that were once free, including constitutionally protected ones, are increasingly subject to fee schedules. Failure to pay can result in imprisonment.
Fact: In at least 43 states and the District of Columbia, defendants can be billed for their public defender’s services.
Fact: In at least 41 states, inmates can be charged for room and board during jail and prison stays.
Fact: In at least 44 states, offenders can be billed for their own probation and supervision.
Fact: In all states except Hawaii and the District of Columbia, there is a fee for electronic monitoring devices that defendants and offenders are ordered to wear.
Source: Guilty As Charged, NPR
Fact: In many states and in all federal enforcement agencies, police may seize items believed to be used in committing a crime or bought with the profits of a crime. This applies to felonies and some misdemeanors.
Fact: Police make the initial decision at the time of the arrest, but they can keep the items regardless of whether the suspect is charged or convicted.
Fact: Police use or spend the items to make purchases and fund salaries for the department.
Fact: In 2003, the federal government seized $479 million worth of property. In 2012, it seized $4.18 billion, a nearly 1000% increase.
Source: Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Star-Telegram
Fact: In 2005, the town of Harpersville, Alabama’s court revenues were its largest source of income – three times that of the town’s sales tax, it’s second largest source of income, and larger than all other sources of income combined.
Fact: Harpersville, Alabama, and thousands of other towns across the U.S. operate what are, in effect, “debtor’s prisons” according to one Alabama Circuit Court judge.
Fact: Private probation companies operate in at least a dozen states. In George alone, private probation companies supervise 260,000-300,000 people per year.
Source: The Nation, The Town That Turned Poverty Into a Prison Sentence
The Constitution ostensibly protects people from falling into this kind of debt-and-punishment trap. In the 1983 case Bearden v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that putting a probationer in jail for failure to pay a fine without first inquiring into that person’s ability to pay violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Fact: Over the past 40 years, the War on Drugs has cost more than $1 trillion and accounted for 45 million arrests and counting.